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Chapter 3 : Being Professional > On Paper

On occasion students think that since they are students and as well as artists, they do not have to be as professional. This is absolutely not true. It is very important to be professional and responsible at all times. Build bridges – don’t burn them! The following information can help you with this. Also, please read Sandy Simon’s, Avra Leodas and Jeff Guido’s interviews in Chapter 9 for more information about working with galleries. In addition, there is a great book about being professional called “Art / Work” by Bhandari & Melber, its mostly about painting, but still excellent.

Resume / CV (Curriculum Vitae)

A strong clean resume is very important. Look at other resumes to find out what style works for you. Often artist will have several different resumes, one for exhibitions, one for employment, or one even for grants. The difference in these resumes would be order and quantity of information. Gear your resume to what you are applying for. No typos or spelling errors in your resume! Always put your name on each page of your resume, and have the pages numbered. A resume is a brief listing of your experience – specific highlights and is usually 1-3 pages. A CV is everything that you have done.

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Sample CV

Artist Statement

It is important to have a clear artist statement. Write about your ideas, processes and interest. Usually an Artist Statement changes, or parts of it change with each body of work or exhibition. It is not a biography; it is a statement about your artwork. It is very very important that it is readable, try and stay away from unintelligible art rhetoric. Read a lot of other art statements to help you decide what you want to write about and why. Ultimately, this statement represents and explains your artwork. It is very important to keep your artist statement up to day, especially if its on your web site. Generally folks read your artist statement when they are interested in your work, so select your words carefully, and have someone else read it back to you, to make sure you are saying what yo mean to.
Sample Artist Statement:

Recommended Book about Artist Statements:
Writing the Artist Statement.  Goodwin, Ariane. ISBN-10: 0741408430
Publisher: Infinity Publishing.


When preparing your portfolio for applying to schools, grants, artist-in-residence, for whatever, these are some things to keep in mind:

  • Present images of your work in whatever format is requested (drop box, flash drive, weblink, existing application format like artshow ( and CaFE (
  • label your images specifically how they request – this is important!
  • Select images that show the view what YOU want them to see in your work, so if small detail is important, then include that and so on.
  • Some details are good, a lot may look like you don’t have very much work (maybe true?)
  • Show the viewer what is important for them to know about you – do they need to see the drawing that you made in 6th grade – most likely not? Choosing to show that you make pottery and or sculpture is the most common questions about what to select – show what is really important to you.
  • Use good images (see under chapter 7, documentation)
  • Get a second opinion from a trusted friend, mentor or teacher.

“A portfolio is a selection of your artwork that represents the variety and quality of your capabilities as an artist… it exemplifies who you are as an artist. It also gives a sense of your passion and work ethic in relation to your art. The work should demonstrate knowledge and versatility of media and subject matter. (Kansas City Art Institute)”

Letters of Recommendation

When applying for programs and employment, well, almost anything, you may be asked for letters of recommendation, or a list of references. These are things to keep in mind:

Do not assume that your reference is willing to write a letter for you, they are not required to. If they cannot write a letter this does not necessarily mean that they do not want recommend you, rather, they have may have already committed to other letters or do not have time.

Be thoughtful of who you are asking, think about if they have the information needed to recommend you or not Do not ask family members or friends unless that have specific experience that would benefit your application.

Send an email to your recommender asking if they would be willing to write you a letter. If they are, you must send them this information:

  • a description of what the position you are applying for
  • when the deadline is
  • what the address is that the letter should be sent
  • the name and phone number of the person conducting the search
  • brief statement of your interest in this position

Give the recommender at least THREE WEEKS to write your letter. After two weeks, it is okay to send a very brief reminder. Remember to send a thank you letter to your recommender after the deadline, and let the recommender know if you got the position.

Information Request

It is common in our field to freely share information. However, this should not be taken for granted. If you are requesting information from an artist, for example, glaze recipes or building techniques there is some protocol to this. It is important to include this information:

Research the information that you want (it is very poor form to email a request for information that already is on their web page)

  • who you are
  • how you came across their artwork
  • why you would like this information and how you will use it
  • very politely ask if they are willing to share the information
  • thank the artist for their time

Be brief and polite. Do not demand or assume that they will share their hard earned information. Give them a reasonable amount of time to respond to you, at least two weeks. If you are requesting information or images for a school assignment, give the artist at least three weeks to get you this information – the night before the presentation is too late to request information.

If the artist does not get back to you, you could send a second email, or let it go. I have heard of an artist getting 16 requests for glaze information in ONE DAY. The artist may not respond simply because they want to get to their studio. If they are able to get information to you, let them know that you received it and send them a thank you.

Thank you letters

Once a gallery owner told me she had received a thank you letter from one of the artists for selling his work. She was amazed! I guess that does not happen very often. Thank you letters are always a good idea, whether you be invited to a workshop or exhibition, studio tour or employment opportunity. A brief follow thank you letter with a small but meaningful detail in the note is a good idea.


Whenever you have an exhibition or teach a workshop, you should have a contract – they help everyone to be clear on the expectations of everyone. Things to ask about are reimbursement for travel, cost or room and board, how long is the obligation, if you are bringing work to see at the workshop, how does you host deal with this, are they advertising the workshop / lecture and so on. Try to think ahead and trouble shoot before your heading out the door. There is a great sections on contracts in “Art / Work” by Bhandari & Melber


“The GYT Forms page is where you can download helpful forms, contracts, checklists, and worksheets to get you organized and get your sh*t together. From budget goals to portfolio evaluations, we want to assist you and your art career in every way possible.”

The College Art Association

The CAA website is an excellent source for professional information and advocacy of the arts.

    Artist Résumé (1999)
    Curriculum Vitae for Visual Artists (1999)
    Curriculum Vitae for Art Historians (2003)
    Etiquette for (CAA) Interviewers (2006)
    Guidelines for Part-Time Professional Employment (2004)
    Standards for Professional Placement (1992)
    Statement on Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality (2011)
    Information about Museum Ethics and Professional Practices (2005)


    Public Art Works (1987)
    Quick Guide to Artists’ Rights under the New Copyright Law (1977)
    Visual Resources Association: Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study (2011)
    Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, Association of Research Libraries (2012)

Best Practices

Artists and Faculty in Visual Art and Design
Professional Practices for Artists (2011)
Statement on the Importance of Documenting the Historical Context of Objects and Sites (2004)
Visual Resources Professionals